Sunday, December 10, 2017

REVIEW: 'Outlander' - Claire and Jamie Clash With a Familiar Foe in a Cave in 'Eye of the Storm'

Starz's Outlander - Episode 3.13 "Eye of the Storm"

Claire is forced to play a game of cat and mouse with an old adversary as she searches for Young Ian. The Frasers race through the jungles of Jamaica to prevent the unthinkable.

This season of Outlander was certainly building to an epic confrontation in Jamaica. The audience just didn't know the specifics of that final moment until last week's episode. That's certainly an odd way to structure this story. The audience didn't know that Geillis was still alive until the penultimate episode of the season. But now, it's proven that she is the true adversary who has been calling out to Claire and Jamie for awhile now. Claire felt a connection to the bones that Joe Abernathy had her examine in the 1960s. Geillis was the one who wanted the box of jewels and kidnapped Young Ian. It's a story that the show has been aware of for a long time. The audience knew to keep an eye on certain things because they would one day become important. But the heart of this season's story was in the relationship between Claire and Jamie. That's always where the heart of this show is. This season was pretty strong because it understood the power that came from separating them and making sure that things were different once they were reunited. The story opted to resort to shocking twists and a physical location change in order to highlight how Claire, Jamie and their relationship has changed in the years since they last saw each other. It was a storytelling device that was familiar for the show that ensured that the stakes were always elevated. The world was pulling these characters back together despite the great distances of time and space. It all happened for a reason. But that reason just isn't as important as making sure that Claire and Jamie can weather any storm that they face.

And so, it's much more satisfying to see Claire and Jamie after this elaborate rescue of Young Ian is complete. It's meaningful when they are having sex on the ship and battling the vicious waves of the ocean. Those are personal stakes that are bound to change their lives once more before the season is over. The first half of this episode though is devoted to the confrontation between Claire and Geillis. They both believe that the other is being deceitful. Geillis believes that Claire is challenging her role in this grand mystery to finally crown a Scottish king. Claire knows that Geillis lied to her about Young Ian. One is based in truth and the other is not. So, it's pretty easy to root for Claire in this conflict. It just happens to be a very one-sided conflict. Geillis' return to the narrative has been pretty anti-climatic. Yes, it was shocking when she emerged from the tub of blood and seduced Young Ian for information. It made it clear right away that she was purely villainous right now. She was the obstacle that Claire and Jamie would have to face in order to reunite as a happy family. But there just was never a whole lot of nuance to what Geillis was trying to accomplish here. She's just obsessing over the prophecy. That's her motivation. It's abundantly clear and easy to understand. The personal connection to it all is just lacking in a pretty significant way.

And again, the personal stakes should be apparent for all to experience and feel engaged by. Claire needing to prove that she has traveled through the stones three times is what gives Geillis purpose in her mission once more. She believes that Brianna is the 200 year old baby that must die in order for a Scottish king to be crowned. It's important for the narrative to note that Geillis and Brianna have met before. It's also meaningful to remember that Geillis has always had a pattern of killing her husbands and not really caring or trusting what anyone else in the world wants. She had a truly selfless action in condemning herself in order to save Claire. She viewed that action as fate. It's miraculous that they are reunited in Jamaica. She sees it as the world bringing the two of them together. It's time for Claire to make a grand sacrifice for the good of the cause. And yet, Claire doesn't care about that at all. She has no idea what Geillis is talking about. She just views her as an increasingly delusional woman. It's that perception that allows her to be more okay with severing her head before jumping into the portal that will take her back to the 1960s. It's a thrilling conclusion to this conflict. Claire is forced to kill the one friend she could reliably count on from the first season. But Geillis is no longer that fun or compelling character. She became one-note through this conflict. So even though it's clear that the narrative had all of this mapped out so that Claire and the audience know that fate was bringing her to this moment, it's not all that satisfying because the personal connection is missing. It's just important that it leads to Young Ian's freedom. That's a victory even though Young Ian isn't all that complex of a character either. He was basically just the plot device that forced all of this into happening.

Young Ian is saved by Claire. Yes, there is a family connection between them. But she knows him about as well as the audience does. She went on this mission because it was important for Jamie. And now, the narrative does just enough to keep Jamie distracted so that Claire is at the focus of the overarching story. That's interesting and a little too complicated. The narrative has made a big deal out of Jamie being wanted for murder. It was the show teasing that consequences were about to catch up to him. It's a form of punishment for the lies he has told since Claire has returned to him. Instead, it just takes one conversation with Lord John for all of this to essentially go away. That feels false. It basically just makes it a way to separate Claire and Jamie once more so that Claire is at the center of the story. She's the one who is always at the forefront of the grand mystery of whatever is happening throughout time. Jamie has a role in that. But he's not special in the same way that Claire and Geillis are. They still feel the call in other time periods. They still have the opportunity to travel to other places through this magical way. Jamie is just a Scottish man dreaming about the life he can have with Claire. Of course, it's still incredibly powerful and sexual to watch as the two of them enjoy some peaceful time on the ship. That's a wonderful sequence that shows the calm that has washed over them after all of this is over. They are returning to Lallybroch to have the life that has always been waiting for them. Their dreams are now within their reach. Sure, Brianna isn't there to enjoy it with them. This finale incorporates her in a big way. Claire and Jamie are fighting to protect her. But Sophie Skelton doesn't appear at all. Instead, it's all about Claire and Jamie's connection. It's all about the buildup and the seduction. The actual sex isn't really seen. But it's still a very powerful and key moment.

And then, those dreams are just casually ripped away from them. It always felt like some big twist was about to occur. It was surprising when the conflict wrapped up with Geillis at the halfway point of this finale. Sure, the rest of the finale could have been spent on the return voyage to Scotland with the family being reunited with Jenny and Ian. It's still possible for these characters to have the life that they have always dreamed of. But it's also abundantly clear that the world always has other plans for them. They can never relax into one position for very long. They are always on the run or at risk of being pulled away from each other. Death was hanging over this episode from the very first moment. It started on Claire giving this inner speech about what it feels like to be drowning. She's sinking to the bottom of the ocean. It isn't until much later when the audience sees what is actually going on with her. She is thrown off the ship after a storm strikes. It's a brutal sequence. This ship was already under-manned. And now, it's facing these horrible conditions. Claire and Jamie got their brief moment of happiness. Everything was seemingly working out for them and the people that they love. But their ship heads into this storm. Both Claire and Jamie are knocked overboard. Jamie has to swim down in order to free Claire from the tangled mess she is in. It's once again a powerful metaphor for just how strong their relationship is even in the face of multiple disasters the world throws at them. They wash up on shore believing themselves to be the only survivors from the storm. They soon learn that the ship crash landed on the beach as well with no confirmation for who also survived. It's perfectly reasonable to expect all the main characters of importance to make it to Georgia okay. That's where the couple currently find themselves. They have now landed in America. It's a new place for them. Claire has been here before. But that was a radically different world. Neither of them have shown a desire to make a life for themselves in the states. But it's the fate the world is offering to them now. They are forced to this place. They are stranded without a ship. They are no longer on an island. They have a bold and unpredictable future ahead of them. They have lost a lot and been forced to do horrible things. But their union is still strong. Their relationship still carries them through the worst that the world has to offer.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Eye of the Storm" was written by Matthew B. Roberts & Toni Graphia and directed by Matthew B. Roberts.
  • Margaret's prophecies really don't mean anything. It's just a way in order to increase the intrigue of mysticism in this world. It's important to note that she is able to see into Claire and Jamie's respective pasts. She knows that they were apart and longed for each other. She can make that connection. But then, she is completely taken over by calling them her mother and father. That's odd and highlights the importance that Brianna apparently has in this story.
  • It's important for the show to highlight the similarities between the performances taking place near these mysterious locations that can send people through time. Otherwise, the ceremony in Jamaica could really be indulging in some racial stereotypes. There is more bloodlust and sacrifice this time around. The show has highlighted how death doesn't necessarily open this portal between time periods. But this moment shows the differences in how Claire and Geillis view the powers that allowed them to be taken to this place.
  • After Claire kills Geillis, she is immediately shaken by the memory of the bones that Joe Abernathy was showing her in the future. She felt a connection to them then. And now, she knows who they belong to and what happened to that person. And yet, she still doesn't question if Joe will have a bigger importance in this story due to the prominent presence of the name "Abernathy."
  • Young Ian's fate was up in the air last week after it was revealed he was taken to Geillis. It's not surprising in the slightest that he turns up alive here. Sure, he's in the middle of being killed once more. But Claire and Jamie are able to save him in time. That also makes it likely that he survives the shipwreck. It just wouldn't make sense for him to survive all of that only to die a day later due to mother nature. Fergus and Marsali are more than likely alive as well.
  • The connection between Mr. Willoughby and Margaret formed quickly and suddenly. And now, they just show up in completely random places just because they are important. It's a story that is also tied to the death of Archibald. That moment is vicious in a senseless way. It wasn't all that necessary. But it's hopeful and fine to see Willoughby and Margaret get their happy ending - even though it seems unlikely that this will be the last time that Claire and Jamie will see them.
  • The show has already been in production on Season 4 for a couple of months now. That's the benefit of Starz giving it an early renewal. As such, the wait in between seasons probably won't be as long as it was for this season. That's very encouraging. This show continues to be a solid performer for the network. This season was strong in some great ways even though the ending was a little awkward and forced. But again, the performances help sell so much of what happens in this crazy world.